Hello my lovelies! Today I have decided to write a different kind of blog. I have been going back and forth contemplating whether to write this for quite a while now. Many of you know if you’ve read my previous blogs that I have struggled with mental illness since having my son. I’ve finally mustered up the courage to share my story of struggling with Post-Natal Depression (PND).
When I found out I was pregnant, I was so overjoyed. I had always been told that I wouldn’t fall pregnant naturally, so it came as a surprise, especially seeing as we had an appointment with a fertility specialist that very month. After the 12 week scan and being told everything was okay and bub was healthy, I started buying lots of things for bub and daydreaming how life would be as a Mum. How I was going to be the best Mum I could be, I would only cloth nappy, I would breastfeed for 12 months, and I would only ever make bub’s food. I had so many goals to be the perfect wife and mother. At 21 weeks we got the news that I’d need emergency surgery to place a stitch in my cervix (also known as a cerclage) as I had a shortened cervix. We were also told to be prepared for a premature delivery and that I may need to go into hospital on bed rest. After a scare at 23 weeks, we were told we had to move to Toowoomba ASAP as it was too risky for me to stay in a small town that didn’t have the facilities for premmies. We packed up and moved away from all of our friends and family the very next day. At 28 weeks, I indeed was put into hospital on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I was told by numerous midwives and nurses that I was at very high risk of PND due to my history with mental health issues (Anxiety & Panic Disorder), the stress of having a high risk pregnancy and also due to having no support around us(family and friends were all in our home town). I always shrugged everyone off and thought I’d be fine because I would be so grateful to have a healthy and happy baby, how could I possibly be depressed after what I’d overcome? I gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 33 weeks & 6 days. The labour & delivery was incredibly traumatic and filled with complications, however bub was born breathing on his own and required only 9 hours in a humidicrib. The night I gave birth I had only 20 minutes sleep as I kept having flash backs of the delivery. I remember saying to the nurse that I couldn’t even look at the photo they’d given me of my son (as he was in the NICU) because it made me think of the pain and trauma I’d been through and she reassured me it was normal and I’d get through it. The next morning I refused to go to the NICU with my husband. I could barely walk and just didn’t want to see my baby. My parents came down mid-morning and managed to convince me to go down with them to see my son. After walking in and seeing my husband holding our tiny baby and seeing the look on my dad’s face when he met his grandson for the first time, all of the trauma from the birth melted away and I felt mentally normal again.
Three days after I gave birth, I was warned of the “baby blues”, something a lot of women experience when their babies are 3 days old due to a dramatic drop in hormones. When I didn’t experience that, I thought I was so lucky and had managed to escape any sad feelings, due to the immense love I felt for my child. Fast forward to 3 weeks post-partum, we got to take our son home finally. We were so beside ourselves with excitement it was incredible. 3 weeks later, when bub was 6 weeks old, we went back to our home town to visit my parents. Everyone kept saying how shocked they were with how well I was doing. I was so proud of myself for mentally and physically feeling so well and healthy. Then at 11 weeks post-partum, my period returned. I’d given up breastfeeding at 6 weeks due to issues with feeding (my son had a severe lip-tie that we didn’t know about until after I’d given it up). I was immediately transformed into a completely different person. I started really struggling with anxiety again and would often have days where I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” I was struggling immensely, but was too frightened to tell anyone, for fear of being judged for not being grateful for my healthy baby and to be honest, I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that I was struggling, embarrassed I wasn’t doing as well as everyone thought I was, embarrassed that I wasn’t a good mum. I wasn’t doing anything I’d promised myself I would. I’d given up breastfeeding, I’d given up cloth nappying and I was giving my 5 month old food out of a jar. I felt like a failure as a mum. When my son was about 5 & 1/2 months old, I decided to go to my GP to go back on the pill as hubby and I had agreed that we didn’t want any more children for a few years. Getting ready to go, I was having so much anxiety about just leaving the house by myself with my baby, that’s how bad it had gotten. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without having a panic attack. Once I got there, my GP asked how I was doing with everything, and I completely broke down in front of her. I told her I was having a really hard time with everything, that I was anxious all the time and that I wasn’t a good mum. Thankfully, she was brilliant and quickly told me that I had the signs of PND & severe anxiety and that there was help out there for me. She set up a mental health care plan and gave me the number of a local psychologist. I went home and told my husband what had happened and to my surprise he said he’d noticed I was really struggling but didn’t know how to approach me about it. He knew something was really wrong for a few months but was hoping it was just hormones and I would get over it. About a month later, I went for my first appointment with the psychologist, who felt I didn’t have PND or anxiety, but more Panic disorder. I figured because she knew what she was doing that she must have been right. I had 2 sessions with her and felt like they just weren’t helping at all. Around the same time, I managed to make a new friend. After a few weeks of talking, she invited me out for lunch. I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t want to turn her down but at the same time I knew I wouldn’t be able to go due to my anxiety. I decided to take a leap and tell her about everything that was going on with me and that I understood if it was too much for her to handle. Luckily, she told me that she completely understood and that she would be there for me whenever I needed her. I have to be honest here and say that she is one of the main reasons I am able to leave the house and actually have a life. I am so grateful to have such a beautiful caring and understanding friend, I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her.
My son will be 1 in less than 2 weeks and I am still struggling. I am doing much better with my PND, maybe because we have finally moved back to our home town and I now have a lot more support around. Maybe it’s because things feel like they are back to normal now we are in our old house. Or it could be the fact that we no longer live in a city. I still struggle with my anxiety too, but I am definitely getting better. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a support person that you can trust and rely on. I still have panic attacks when I go down to my local Woolworths and when they happen I send my best friend a txt and tell her what’s going on. Having her just reminding me to take deep breaths and to distract me makes the world of difference.
The reason I decided to share my story is because I know a lot of women suffer with PND and are too frightened to tell anyone. You do not need to feel ashamed because you aren’t doing as well as the other Mum’s at mothers group or because you spent the day crying even though everything around you seems to be going well. You can’t choose whether you have mental illness or not, but you can choose to seek help to get better. Talk to a friend, your family, your partner, your GP, anyone you trust. For me, I think it helped that I had a new friend to tell I was struggling, because she didn’t expect anything of me and also because she wasn’t there in the first few months when I was mentally well so I didn’t feel as ashamed that I was struggling. Please remember you are ALWAYS welcome to send me a message on Facebook. I understand what you are going through and sometimes talking to someone who doesn’t know your friends and family can really help. The last points I want to end this post with are these;
You are NOT crazy.
You ARE a good Mum.
Do not EVER feel ashamed to ask for help, EVERYONE needs help at some point in their life.
Having mental illness does not mean you are weak, you ARE STRONG enough to get through it.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you think may be struggling, it may give them the courage to seek help.
If you’d like to share your story, feel free to send me a message and we can discuss posting your story on the blog (your story can be posted anonymously if you’d like).